High water (flood level) mark in canal in Lowell, Massachusetts
Wedns July 14th Julia came again this morning
but we have not got along very fast
on my dress Have no trimming for the
sleeves have written for Mrs Stevens to
get me some There is a great deal to
do to finish my dress Hannah & Mary
have both been ironing all day and
have it all done
Evelina was indoors, sewing a new dress with the help of dressmaker Julia Mahoney. Old Oliver was out haying, “jawing” orders at local men gathering up this year’s meager crop. Oakes Angier, Frank Morton and probably Oliver (3), now that he was home from college, were each posted in some area of the factory, making shovels alongside the workers. Oakes and Oliver Jr. were supervising, perhaps striding around the shovel complex watching the new building go up or sitting in the office looking at accounts.
If we modern readers want to find a day that typifies life in North Easton in the middle of the 19th century, we couldn’t do better than this ordinary summer day in 1852. In other years and in other places, July 14th has hosted more momentous events: the storming of the Bastille, the first ascent of the Matterhorn, the shooting of Billy the Kid, the day Jane Goodall arrived in Tanzania to study chimpanzees. Nonesuch in North Easton; according to Old Oliver’s record, July 14, 1852 was simply a “warm good hay”* day. Routine ruled.
This is not to say that history wasn’t happening. It was. Yet as Evelina noted, “we have not got along very fast,” a phrase that is applicable to so much of history. Change often quietly accumulates, transforming what we know in a stealthy fashion. Evelina’s hand-sewing, Old Oliver’s oxen-driven hay-wagons, Oakes’ and Oliver Jr.’s water-powered shovel machinery: all have since disappeared, replaced by modern equipment invented over time. The life that the Ameses lived was already altering, irrevocably, bit by bit.
* Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection